Last week, I talked about the gorgeous iPhone music app Bloom, created by real geniuses Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers. One week later, I might love it more than ever; in fact, I fell asleep listening to it last night.
One of the things I like about Bloom is that it’s a music creator and not an instrument simulator or a rhythm game, unlike a majority of the iPhone music applications. One of the hot new music applications is a 99-cent number called Harmonica, developed by Benjamin McDowell. Bloom it is not, but it’s not the worst way to spend 99 cents, thanks in part to the “laff factor.”
To be fair, Bloom is a tough act to follow, and Harmonica is the most functional of the instrument simulators I’ve used thus far. The idea here is that you actually hold the iPhone up to your mouth and “blow” on the fake harmonica by putting your lips on your iPhone. The creator claims it’s “hilarious,” and there is a bit of hilarity involved when you first place the iPhone in your mouth, followed by natural revulsion at the fact that you just put your iPhone in your mouth. I’m no germophobe, but I’m a fairly hygienic guy, and let me tell you that this gave me the shivers. My iPhone is already coated with pocket lint and finger grease after a couple months of having it. And I don’t necessarily know where that pocket lint has been!
You can use your fingers to trigger the harmonica, and it’s a tad more responsive this way, but, yeah, I think something is lost in translation. I will note that I found myself blowing on the iPhone when using my mouth, even though it’s completely unnecessary. This is the first instrument simulator that feels somewhat commensurate to the real experience, but even with the buttons to simulate sucking in or blowing through multiple holes (have at it, Peanut Gallery), you’re not going to confuse it with playing a real harmonica.
So, to ask the question that snooty guitarists ask of Guitar Hero and Rock Band: Why not just buy the real thing and learn to play it? In the case of Harmonica, well, it’s 99 cents and a fun iPhone goof. Even the creator is aware of its novelty value:
Whether you use it to make your friends laugh, impress that pretty girl, or to annoy your co-workers, Harmonica is indispensable.
(dials Maura’s number…)